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Overview: field artillery in operation Iraqi freedom.

In an unprecedented campaign, V Corps units--the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3d ID), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and elements of the 82d Airborne Division (plus FA from the 41st, 212th and 214th FA Brigades)--fought their way from the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border 21 March 2003 north and seized Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces in Baghdad in just 18 days with major combat operations ending three days later. The I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) with its 1st Division (including the 11th Marines) simultaneously fought north from the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border to the southeastern part of Baghdad and seized Rasheed Airbase, a military complex. Simultaneously, the I MEF Marines of Task Force (TF) Tarawa (with the 1st Battalion 10th Marines) crossed the Kuwaiti border rapidly to secure airfield in southern Iraq and then followed the 3d ID route north to An Nasiriyah where it spent seven days slugging it out in urban operations to secure the city. British forces also crossed the line of departure on 21 March and encircled and rooted out resistance in Iraq's second largest city, Basrah. The newly arrived 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) helped to secure Tikrit and, at the end of major combat operations on 10 April, began conducting stability and support operations (SASO) to rebuild the nation of Iraq along with other combat units.

What many thought would be a long, arduous fight to topple Saddam Hussein's regime with the possibility of the enemy's using weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a swift victory with Coalition Forces moving farther and faster than any corps-sized force in history--some 1,000 kilometers from Kuwait to the Turkish border in the north. (See the map in Figure 1.)


The FA supporting maneuver forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) proved to be the deciding factor in many of the conflicts--although the enemy artillery outnumbered and outranged the Coalition Force FA. The FA in OIF was the lowest ratio of artillery pieces-to-troops in war since before World War I. (See Figure 2 on Page 4.) Artillery fires came at a premium with lines of communications stretched from the Kuwaiti border to Baghdad, including ammunition resupply.
Figure 2: Coalition Force FA Weapons in Operation Iraqi Freedom
(OIF) during Major Combat Operations

US Field Artillery in OIF

54 Paladin (155-mm) Self-Propelled Howitzers:

1-9 FA (18), 3d IN Div
1-41 FA (18), 3d IN Div
1-10 FA (18), 3d IN Div

62 M119 (105-mm) Towed Howitzers:

1-320 FA (18), 101st Abn Div
2-320 FA (18), 101st Abn Div
3-320 FA (18), 101st Abn Div
2-319 FA (8), 2d Bde, 82d Abn Div

110 M198 (155-mm) Towed Howitzers:

C/1-377 FA (8), GS to the 101st Abn Div
1/11 Marines (12), 1st Marine Div
2/11 Marines (18), 1st Marine Div
3/11 Marines (18), 1st Marine Div
5/11 Marines (12), 1st Marine Div
I/3/10 Marines (6) Attached to 1/11 Marines
R/5/10 Marines (6) Attached to 5/11 Marines
S/5/11 Marines (6) Attached to the 15th MEU
F/2/10 Marines (6) Attached to the 24th MEU
A/B/C/1-10 Marines (18), Task Force Tarawa

73 MLRS:

1-39 FA (12), 3d IN Div
1-27 FA (18), 41st FA Bde. V Corps
2-18 FA (19), 212th FA Bde, as part of 41st FA Bde
2-4 FA (18), 214 FA Bde, V Corps
C/3-13 FA (6), 214th FA Bde, Round-Out to 1-39 FA

3 HIMARS: C/3-27 FA, 18th FA Bde (Under Control of SOF)

British Field Artillery in OIF

32 AS-90 (155-mm) Self Propelled Howitzers: 3d RHA (32)
(Reinforced by the 27th and 4th Regiments), Reinforced
the 11th Marines (US) lnitiaity

34 L118 (105-mm) Towed Howitzers: 7th RHA (18), 1st AR
Div (UK), Reinforced the 11th Marines (US) Initially
29th Commando Regiment RA (16), 1st AR Div (UK)


Abn = Airborne
Ar = Armored
Bde = Brigade
Div = Division
HIMARS = High-Moblity Artillery
Rocket System
IN = Infantry
MEU = Marine Expeditionary Unit
MLRS = Multiple-Launch
Rocket System
RA = Royal Artillery
RHA = Royal Horse Artillery
SOF = Special Operations Forces
UK = united Kingdom

The magnificent soldier and Marine Field Artilleryman adapted to changes while rapidly moving great distances, made critical decisions independently in decentralized operations with little or no sleep and executed fire missions with extraordinary precision in constant movements-to-contact, meeting engagements and urban operations as part of the most effective joint fires team in history. After the initial planning in Kuwait, combat was fast and fluid with minimal formal military decision making or formal fire planning and rehearsals.

The Army and Marine Field Artillery were key to combined arms operations and a major contributor to the joint fires team.

OIF Rounds Fired. Paladin and M198 155-mm rounds were effective across a wide range of missions, particularly, in destroying targets of opportunity, supporting urban operations and suppressing the enemy. The 3d ID fired almost 14,000 155-ram rounds, including more than 120 precision-guided sense and destroy armor munitions (SADARM), while the 101st Airborne Division's M198s fired 516 rounds. The 11th Marines participated in every battle in the 1st Marine Division's campaign from the Kuwaiti border to Tikrit--the only Marine regiment to do so--firing almost 20,000 M198 rounds.

1/1 0 Marines of TF Tarawa fired more than 2,000 155-mm rounds at An Nasiriyah--mostly high-explosive (HE) rounds with variable-time (VT) fuzes and improved conventional munitions (ICM), including one battalion 10-rounds of ICM. During OIF, the British fired 9,042 155-mm rounds and 13,151 105-mm rounds.

The threat was primarily the Iraqi artillery, particularly the ballistic missiles that could deliver chemical weapons against Coalition Forces. These were high-payoff targets (HPTs) in OIF.

The Army tactical missile system (ATACMS) unitary missiles' debut in deep operations during the 20 March opening gambit "Shock and Awe" joint fires campaign proved deadly and included attacking some long-range command and control military targets. This new long-range precision-guided unitary missile has a small circular error probable (CEP) and a very promising future. Multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) rockets were equally effective in counterfire, helping to break the Iraqi Army's will to fight. MLRS also was employed in close support.

The total number of MLRS fired in OIF was 857 rockets. In terms of ATACMS, V Corps fired more than 400 missiles (including 13 unitary missiles), which is 10 times the number fired in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

The 101st Airborne Division Artillery (Div Arty), along with the 2d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery (2-319 FA), 82d Airborne Div Arty, fired more than 4,000 105-mm rounds in close support of its maneuver forces. Most 105-mm fires were in support of light infantry in urban operations.

Maneuver commanders, once again, witnessed the lethality and precision of massed artillery rites to stop the enemy cold In the worst weather, such as the Mother of All Sandstorms the most effective fires available were artillery fires.

Enemy and Environment. Coalition Forces were victorious in OIF while facing diverse enemy forces who used asymmetrical tactics and were difficult to template. The enemy included the surprisingly fierce, at times suicidal, paramilitary forces in the south--Saddam Fedayeen, Ba'ath Party, Al Kuts paramilitary and others. Enemy forces then ranged to the remnants of the more organized Republican Guard Divisions around Baghdad to the Special Republican Guard and Special Security Organization (SSO) forces defending inside of Baghdad. These forces fought with determination in their last-ditch efforts to save the regime.

For the most part, the enemy looked like civilians and sometimes shielded themselves with civilians or forced civilians to fight with them, They hid in schools, hospitals, mosques, historical sites and other locations governed by Coalition Force rules of engagement (ROE). They used low-tech to defeat our high-tech and tended to attack in small numbers from unpredictable locations, making them difficult to target and limiting the effectiveness of precision-guided munitions.

Friendly forces bad to advance north on limited avenues of approach due to the restrictive terrain and road network. The terrain west of the Euphrates River where the 3d and 101st Divisions moved in convoys was the less populated desert with surfaces ranging from hard-packed to quick-sand-like. The 1st Marine Division's convoy north on Highways 1 and 7 were surrounded by the more populated, highly irrigated farmland along the Tigris River with surfaces that could not support armored vehicles. With the rapid movement of forces north, Coalition Forces often experienced changes in both terrain and enemy forces several times a day.

FA Firsts in Combat. OIF included many "firsts" for the FA. The obvious is the fact that so much was accomplished with so little in every respect.

The FA was a critical part of the OIF joint fires team--our joint integration and effectiveness in combat made history.

The M109A6 Paladin performed magnificently as a first in combat. It consistently put rounds down range from nontraditional firing positions within two minutes after receiving the mission and was very reliable.

Additionally, this was the first time a Div Arty (3 ID) went into combat with its own general support MLRS battalion to provide deep fires and counterfire for the division--1-39 FA. This battalion fired MLRS in close support of troops.

It was also the combat debut of the high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS). Linked with a Q-37 radar, a HIMARS platoon provided fires for Special Operations Forces (SOF) as they maneuvered on the western front in classified missions.With only one platoon in the Army, demand for HIMARS was high from the Coalition Forces' land, special operations and air component commands.

The precision-guided ATACMS unitary round, fired first in combat by 2-4 FA, 214th FA Brigade, during Shock and Awe, provided immediate and accurate fires against long-range critical enemy command and control targets.

The first use of SADARM in combat by 1-10 FA, 3 ID, brought cannon artillery into the precision-guided age. Maneuver commanders were elated at the precision and destruction caused by this lethal munition.

2-4 FA employed M270A1 launchers for the first time in combat. The launchers performed very well and were reliable,

One beneficial first in combat was the use of the Bradley fire support vehicle (BFIST). This vehicle not only allowed fire supporters to execute calls-for-fires quickly, but also provided the protection and lethality fire supporters needed to move rapidly within armored formations in distributed operations.

Without a doubt, Operation Iraqi Freedom brought to the forefront that indirect fires remain the biggest force multiplier and killer on the modern battlefield.

Cannoneers and Rocketeers refused to leave their guns so they could provide continuous fires in support of their maneuver brethren. Field Artillery officers and NCOs improvised when enemy actions and terrain required a change in doctrinal procedures or established tactics, techniques or procedures, These Army and Marine Field Artillerymen truly were the keys to the success of land-based indirect fires in OIF.

Lieutenant Colonel William G. Pitts was the Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group FA Representative, gathering data in Iraq from 23 April to 15 June. He is the Chief of the Doctrine Division, Directorate of Training and Developments, at the Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He also served as Advisor to the Royal Saudi Artillery in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In other assignments, he was the Executive Officer for 1st Battalion, 321st Field Artillery (Airborne), 18th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Also at Fort Bragg, he was the Assistant Fire Support Coordinator and Current Operations Officer for Me XVlll Airborne Corps. He commanded A Battery, 5th Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, part of the 75th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill.
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Author:Pitts, William G.
Publication:FA Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:FA priorities after OIF.
Next Article:Trained, adaptable, flexible forces = victory in Iraq: Lieutenant General W. Scott Wallace CG of V Corps in Iraq during OIF.

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